*Vows To Bring Coup Plotters To Justice
Burundi’s presidency has said an attempted coup by a top general had been “foiled” and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
“It is with regret that we have learned that a group from the armed forces mutinied this morning and declared an imaginary coup,” the office of President Pierre Nkurunziza said in its first full statement since the coup attempt was launched.
“The presidency informs national and international public opinion that this coup attempt has been foiled and that these people, who read the coup announcement on the radio, are being hunted by defence and security forces so that they can be brought to justice,” the statement added.
The President of Burundi was away on official assignment when the coup occurred and had had to break the trip to return home to regain his seat.
The government of Tanzania may have assisted in foiling the Coup
The Burundian general who launched the coup earlier today had initially ordered the closure of Bujumbura airport and land borders, as President Pierre Nkurunziza tried to fly home to his troubled nation from Tanzania.
“I order the closure of the airport and border, and I ask every citizen and law enforcement down to the airport to protect it,” General Godefroid Niyombare said in the radio broadcast.
Meanwhile, President Pierre Nkurunziza is flying home to Burundi hours after General Godefroid Niyombare announced a coup while he was attending a regional crisis meeting in neighbouring Tanzania.
“He has left because of the situation prevailing in Burundi,” Tanzanian government spokesman Salva Rweyemamu told AFP, adding that Nkurunziza was heading back to the Burundi capital Bujumbura.
Burundi General Godefroid Niyombare, who announced the overthrow of the president, is a former spy chief, diplomat and respected army officer.
An ex-chief of staff of the army and one-time ambassador to Kenya, Niyombare has a reputation for professionalism and integrity, commanding respect among rank and file soldiers.
During Burundi’s 13-year civil war, which ended in 2006, Niyombare fought alongside Pierre Nkurunziza, who led the rebel CNDD-FDD and went on to become president.
With the end of the war Niyombare rose through the ranks becoming deputy head of the army and then chief of staff. He also served as Burundi’s ambassador to Kenya.
In December he was appointed head of the national intelligence, placing him at the heart of government affairs and the president’s powerful security apparatus.
Niyombare’s loyal rise to the top came to an abrupt end less than three months later when he was fired in February after privately opposing Nkurunziza’s intention to run for a third term.
His deputies at the time, intelligence chief of staff General Leonard Ngendakumana and the head of the domestic intelligence division, General Sylvestre Ndayizeye, were also sacked.
Critics say Nkurunziza’s third term bid is against the constitution and the Arusha peace deal that ended Burundi’s bloody civil war.
At the time of his sacking, a senior CNDD-FDD official said Niyombare and his deputies were punished for asking the president not to stand for re-election in June.
On Wednesday, while Nkurunziza was in Tanzania to attend a regional summit on Burundi’s crisis, the general took to private radio to announce the president’s removal from office and the dissolution of his government.